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Europe

Former Serb premier Milutinovic awaits war crimes judgement

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Latest update : 2009-02-26

The United Nation's tribunal for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia is set to issue a verdict Thursday on the former Serb president, Milan Milutinovic (pictured), for his role in the 1998-9 Kosovo conflict.

AFP - The UN's Yugoslav war crimes court is set to pronounce judgment Thursday on Serbian ex-president Milan Milutinovic in its first-ever ruling on crimes by Serb forces in the 1998-9 Kosovo conflict.
   
The prosecution has sought jail terms of between 20 years and life for Milutinovic and five co-accused tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) from July 2006 to August 2008.
   
Milutinovic, 66, Serb former Yugoslav deputy prime minister Nikola Sainovic, 60, ex defence minister Dragoljub Ojdanic, 67, ex-army commanders Nebojsa Pavkovic, 62, and Vladimir Lazarevic, 59, and former public security service chief Sreten Lukic, 53, have all pleaded not guilty.
   
Close allies of the late former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, they stand accused of a "widespread or systematic campaign of terror and violence", including the forcible deportation of some 800,000 ethnic Albanians from Kosovo between January and June 1999.
   
Other allegations include the murders of hundreds of Kosovo Albanians, the sexual assault of Albanian civilian women by Serb troops, and the destruction of cultural and religious sites.
   
The first ICTY case to have dealt with alleged Serb atrocities committed during the Kosovo war, that of Milosevic, came to an abrupt end with the former strongman's death in detention in 2006.
   
This would make the Milutinovic ruling "the first judgment for the crimes committed by Serbian forces against Kosovo Albanians during the 1999 conflict in Kosovo," the tribunal, based in The Hague, said in a statement.
   
Milutinovic was president of Serbia from December 1997 to December 2002.
   
The Serb crackdown on Kosovo, which the prosecution says sought the "modification of the ethnic balance in Kosovo in order to ensure continued Serbian control over the province", left thousands dead and hundreds of thousands internally displaced or forced to flee to neighbouring states.
   
Serb and Yugoslav troops withdrew from the predominantly ethnic Albanian province in June 1999 following a three-month NATO bombing campaign.
   
Milosevic and Serb authorities always insisted they were taking legitimate action against the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army, which they branded a terrorist group.
   
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008, a status since been recognised by 55 countries.
   
But Serbia still considers Kosovo as one of its provinces and fiercely opposes its independence though it has had no control over the territory since a UN mission took over the administration at the end the 1998-1999 conflict.

Date created : 2009-02-26

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